'Tis The Season For Tamales

STORY AND PHOTOS
BY XALLY I. SALGADO

It is that time of year when tamales takeover Latino households for the upcoming months. Tamales come in different sizes, flavors and regions. I took the time to construct a manual on how to make Mexican, Salvadorian and Guatemalan tamales.

Mexican Tamales:

Maria Romero, a Mexican Citizen, has been making tamales for about 15 years. As a loving mother and wife, she makes tamales throughout the whole year for her family, but the demand is high during the holidays.

“Tamales are time consuming,” said Romero. “But the happiness they bring to my loved ones makes it worthwhile.”

She has provided a list of ingredients and materials she uses.

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Ingredients:

  • 14lbs. of Masa Mix (produces approx. 8-10 dozen of tamales)

  • Royal Baking Soda (4 regular spoons)

  • 15 lbs. of Pork Meat (must be pork meat for tamales)

  • Premium Corn Husks (16 oz. packet, purchase 2)

  • 2 lbs. of Jalapeños

  • 4 lbs. of Green Tomato

  • 1.5 lbs. of Lard

  • Sea Salt

  • Garlic

  • Laurel Leaf

  • Canola Oil

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Romero’s way of making tamales is a two-day process.

Directions:

  1. The Masa Mix needs to be put in a bowl and may be put on the side for the next couple of steps.

  2. Boil pork meat in water for 1.5 hours.

  3. Pot of water must contain: 1 big cooking spoon of sea salt, 4 small pieces of garlic and 4 leaves of laurel leaf.

  4. Premium corn husks need to be soaked in water for 24 hours.

  5. Making the salsa will consists of a couple steps:

  6. Boil the green tomatoes first because it takes longer; boil in high temperature until water starts to boil.

  7. Proceed to add the jalapeños.

  8. Next, you will blend the jalapeños, green tomatoes, garlic and salt.

  9. After blending, you will boil it in a pot with Canola Oil for about 10 minutes. You do NOT want it to become too liquidy.

  10. Break the pork meat into strips, then put it in the salsa. Allow it to soak up and cool down. This will make future steps easier.

  11. In a bowl, you will combine regular spoons of the Royal Baking Soda and 3-4 cups of water from the boiled pork. After the boil reaction occurs, you will proceed to add that into the Masa Mix bowl.

  12. Boil the 1.5 lbs. of lard for about 3 minutes. Allow it to cool down and then add it to the Masa Mix bowl as well.

  13. Then you will add 3 tsps. of sea salt to the Masa Mix bowl.

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After all these steps, Maria kneels to bat everything in the Masa Mix bowl.

“The tamale dough will be ready as soon as it starts to create farting noises or air bubbles when beating it,” said Romero. “Allow it to sit for up to six hours because it will be smoother and easier to work with the next day.”

The day-two steps begin with rinsing the corn husks, but you must rinse every single one individually.

“You want to rinse them individually because strands of hair from the husk will rise,” said Romero. “You don’t want to feel like you’re eating hair.”

Finally, wrapping time! With one hand, you will hold a clean, corn husk while grabbing a spoonful of masa mix on the other. You will spread the masa on the corn husk, then add the meat on top. Next, close the leaf and fold.

In a tamale steamer pot, you will use the water of the pork meat. You must put a couple of corn husks to lay the wrapped tamales on top. With high temperature, it will take about 2.5 hours for tamales to thoroughly cook.

“After the two and a half hours, MMM delicious tamales in your mouth,” said Romero.

 

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Salvadorian Tamales:

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Breasts

  • Potatoes

  • Green Bell Peppers

  • Garbanzo Beans

  • Salt

  • Garlic

  • Onion

  • Tomato

  • Brown Pepper

  • Consume de Pollo

  • Cumino

  • Banana Leaf

  • Masa Mix 5-10lbs. (approx. 25-50 tamales)

  • Lard

  • Guajillo Pepper

  • Achiote Grounded Pepper/Seed

Directions:

  1. In a pot, half with water and chicken, you need to add salt, garlic and union.

  2. Boil until the chicken is tender, this will make it easier to strip/shred it.

  3. For the salsa, you will blend approximately three to four tomatoes, ½ onion, guajillo, achiote black pepper, cumin, water and conzume de pollo.

  4. Combine the salsa and chicken in a pot for 20-30 minutes on a low temperature. The chicken should be drowning in the salsa.

  5. Cut potatoes into long strips, not super skinny or thick, very much like McDonald’s French fries. This same style applies to with the bell peppers.

  6. Wash the rest of the veggies.

  7. The Masa Mix needs to be dissolved in water and then put it in a pot to cook with lard.

  8. Two to three regular spoons of lard will be used for 5-10 lbs. of masa mixer.

  9. Put the chicken broth, water chicken was boiled in, in low heat.

  10. Extremely important to continuously stir, don’t want the masa to harden or stick onto the pot.

  11. Banana leaf needs to be rinsed with water.

  12. Heat on a pan like a tortilla until it gets soft.

  13. Cut into pieces.

  14. Use aluminum on the outside to create a second layer for the tamale.

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CREATING THE TAMALE

Banana leaf spread, get one or two spoons of masa on top/middle of leaf spreading it… then proceed to put on chicken, potato, garbanzo beans, bell pepper and a little bit of the salsa the chicken was cooked in **just a little bit.

 

Close the leaf:

If you used the aluminum close it as well, pinch side to close it.

 

Cook Tamales:

Vapor Pot, or pot with crate.

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Big pot with half the tamales in it under water. Must put the spine of the banana leaf at the bottom of the pot because you don’t want the tamales to touch it or they will burn.

Cook for about an hour, keep checking making sure the water never runs out. If water runs out, add, you never want all the tamales to be submerged in water. To create steam effect.

 

They should be ready to eat!